The Wake Forest team had dressed and were exiting the locker room, but the door to NC State's locker room remained closed. The lesson that Sidney Lowe was trying to instill on his players was simple – its a whole new season now.
"It's a new season," Lowe said. "Everyone is going into this tournament at 0-0, no one has a win this tournament. No one has a loss. So this is an opportunity, its a one-game elimination. All we have to do is go and beat one team and they are out and we'll go to the next one. There's a great opportunity here."
Last year, the Pack almost made the NCAA Tournament thanks to its second season, as a team with five ACC wins took three straight games from higher seeds on its way to making the ACC Tournament finals. Last season's amazing run came thanks to some spectacular shooting over the course of four days. In all three of its wins, the Pack shot over 50 percent from the field.
This season's team will need another white hot shooting performance to make noise in the tournament, unless it somehow fixes the fundamental problems that have plagued the team all year in the next four days.
"It's a new season," Javi Gonzalez said. "Everybody gets the same chance to win it. We just have to come out and play hard, play smart. We know we can win."
State will enter the 'second season' as the biggest underdogs in the 12-team field. They'll also come in as the 12th seed, having lost the tiebreaker with Virginia and Boston College by losing to both teams in head-to-head match-ups this season.
"12th seed, whatever - you play on the first day then you play on the first day. I don't even know what seed we are, nor do I care," senior Gavin Grant said. "We did it last year – won three at least. We know what we gotta do."
Pack Never Learned To 'Play Smart'
The Pack only had 16 turnovers on Saturday, almost exactly the average for NC State during league play this season. But what was especially crippling was the way the Pack turned the ball over, mostly caused by miscommunication or lack of concentration as opposed to any real defensive pressure on the part of Wake Forest.
"We had 16 turnovers and I dare say maybe 12 of those were really unforced," Lowe said. "That's something that we've been talking about and working on and dealing with pretty much all year is not shooting ourselves in the foot."
NC State will end the year as the most turnover-prone team in the conference, and will also be dead last in turnover margin. The inability to hold on to the ball or take it from the other team has cost the Pack dozens of possessions over the course of the conference season. Losing possessions is especially punishing to a team like the Pack, who's slow pace limits the number of possessions in the game in hopes of getting higher percentage shots.
"Most of the time we can shoot a pretty good percentage," Lowe said. "But when you are turning it over you just aren't giving yourself the opportunity."
As he's done time after time throughout the season, Lowe once again tried to hammer home the point after the Wolfpack's loss to the Deacons.
"He just let us know that our guys once again did the same thing – played hard, played the right way for a couple of minutes got back into the game," Grant said. "He just emphasized putting it together for a whole 40 minutes."
"They played smarter than we did. We didn't play smart at all."